Farewell to David Blunkett

David Blunkett
David Blunkett

Serving Sheffield for 45 years

David Blunkett has served Sheffield, first as a councillor, then an MP for 45 years. This year he retired and passed his seat on to Harry Harpham. The Messenger interviewed him about his final reflections on the changing political scene of Sheffield.

Sheffield has changed enormously over his career especially in terms of the loss of industry and the new diversity, the heart of which is in Burngreave and Pitsmoor. Mr Blunkett is proud that Sheffield has remained “the largest village in England” in the way that we cherish community and come together against all odds.

Major challenges and successes

A major challenge for Mr Blunkett came in the 1980s with the loss of 50,000 steel working and engineering jobs. “We fought to keep the city together… continuing the investment in public services, by creating cooperatives, and above all giving people a reason for getting up in the morning.” Mr Blunkett reflects that one of his proudest achievements, his transport policy of 1972 to 1986, was realised during this time: “It was more than just cheap fares; it was a symbol of how if you do things together, if it’s a mutual endeavour, you can make it beneficial for everyone”.

He also cites the achievements of Fir Vale and Parkwood Academy as successes stemming from his time as Education Secretary and also the introduction of the SureStart programme, which was greatly valued in Burngreave. As Home Secretary he made positive changes to the laws around sex offences, domestic abuse, and anti-social behaviour – laws that protect the vulnerable and will help people in Burngreave and across the country.

Some regrets

Discussion of the Iraq war was unavoidable and Mr Blunkett admits that although at the time he did believe it was the right thing to do, he now regrets that the process was rushed and that there was no planning for the long term future of Iraq.

His other regret is a failure to get people engaged with politics in their daily lives. He told the Messenger that he believes government should be about changing the way people think and feel about themselves and the nation. “The second thing I regret is that we didn’t spend more time in government on how we embedded a different outlook on society, so that government could have used its influence and power… to reinforce people’s sense of mutuality and reciprocity”.

“Keep hold of your roots”

Now, looking to the future of his constituency in the new hands of Harry Harpham, he hopes local government will unify to create a stronger voice. What’s more he wants to a see a stronger voice and to empower the powerless through the new media, as at the moment social media is not universal but mainly in the hands of the “already articulate”. Summarising the problem he says, “the more alienated and disillusioned people are, the less they engage, the less the people already in power have to take notice of them.” Challenging this cycle is something Mr Blunkett is now going to be working on with the University of Sheffield and he was keen to put across that people can use their voice to make change, especially when they work together.

He finished with advice for his successor, Harry Harpham to “be yourself – keep hold of your roots, spend as much time back in the constituency as you can, and do your utmost to be the voice of the less powerful here in the north of the city” explaining that this was the key to not only gaining respect but having satisfaction in the job. “The greatest part of the job was always being back in Sheffield listening, talking, sometimes being told off by people, but actually always feeling that that’s where the roots are, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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The content on this page was added to the website by Graham Jones on 2015-05-28 12:28:15.
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